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A domain name is your personal or business address on the Internet, it’s a piece of online real estate that you control completely—as long as you own the rights to that domain. 

Domain names can be fanciful or transparently descriptive, used for everything from a personal blog to a multinational company’s public site, and having one or more is essential for being visible in a crowded online world. 

Knowing how domain names work and why they’re needed can help you choose the right domain for your business or personal site. 

If you’re ready to get started, we can help you buy a domain name today! 

What is a domain?

The kings of old ruled with absolute authority over their domains—territories carved out by war or treaty. That idea also captures the spirit of today’s Internet domains, which allow anyone to claim a cyberspace “territory”—a website—that’s exclusively their own.  

To secure that online domain, simply create a unique name and register it—or buy an existing domain name from a domain marketplace or private seller. That makes it possible to create a website that establishes a user’s online presence for a variety of personal or business reasons. 

Every domain must have a unique name that distinguishes it from all others and points only to a single website. That’s why anyone buying and registering a domain name needs to carefully research the perfect web address by conducting a domain name search to find out if it’s already in use. If so, it’s off-limits, unless the owner is willing to sell it. This process is known as domain name registration. 

If a domain name is available, any Internet user can buy it—which means paying a fee for exclusive rights to that name for a period of time that can range from one year to more than a decade.  

After registering a domain name, it becomes the owner’s public address on the Internet and the gateway to accessing the website attached to the name. But a domain name is only a proxy for the real locator—the IP address. 

If you are looking to build a website, you may want to choose a domain registrar that is also a hosting provider. This will allow you to register a domain and host your site in one place. 

Domain name system and IP addresses 

Domain names use a set of words, letters, or numbers—or a combination of some or all of these—to describe a unique individual or enterprise in a way that’s easy to remember and type into a web browser’s address bar or a search engine. But, a domain name simply represents a site’s “real” address—the Internet Protocol, or IP address. 

Unlike a short, catchy domain name, the IP address is a string of unique numbers that allows computers to communicate with each other over the shared Internet network. But these identifying number sequences are long and difficult to remember, let alone type correctly, so domain names act as a public alias for the actual IP address that servers use to point to a specific site. 

In a protocol called the Domain Name System (DNS), the domain name serves as a link to the IP address, which is the one that’s used by the world’s webservers to locate and access the website a user is searching for. 

Domain name extensions 

A fully qualified domain name is made up of a top-level domain and a subdomain, also known as a domain extension.  

Generic top-level domains (gTLDs) such as .com, .net, and .org are some of the most common domain extensions used. Top-level domains (TLDs) are indicated by letters found on the right of the “dot” in every domain name, such as .com, .net, or .info, as well as country codes like .ca or .au.  

Originally, only 6 top-level domains were available, but now many new ones are being added, such as .church or .photo. These new top-level domain extensions allow for more flexibility in describing what a site is about, and they can be purchased at varying prices through both domain registrars and web hosting services. 

The domain name is known as subdomains or mid-level domains, and the second level domain is the name chosen by its owner, appearing to the left of the TLD extension.  

In the common placeholder website name, www.example.com, “example” is the sample domain name, and .com is the TLD. And the “www?” Originally it was a machine designation that stood for the World Wide Web. Today it’s largely optional, and many domain names omit it altogether.

What’s the difference between a domain name and a URL? 

URLs, or Universal Resource Locators, are different from domain names, although a domain name is at the center of a URL. A URL is a unique “address” that belong to an individual file available on the Internet, and this string of numbers, characters, and letters tells a web browser where to go to get that unique piece. 

The domain name indicates where a search should point, and the often-complex combination of characters after the TLD extension specifies exactly which of many available files is the right one. For example, the URL https://www.si.edu/learn-explore takes a user not only to the site for the Smithsonian Institution but to the specific page titled “Learn & Explore.” And that, in turn, leads to other related pages, each with its own URL. 

How does buying a domain work?

Anyone can purchase a domain name, as long as it isn’t currently in use by someone else. Domain registries are responsible for managing the database of domain names and their associated IP addresses.  

Most new users create a unique domain name that reflects their identity or business brand, and many resources are available to help with finding the right domain name and checking for its availability against various TLD extensions. For example, a name might not be available as a .com, but users could purchase the same domain name with extensions like .edu or .biz

It’s also possible to purchase an existing domain name. Users buy rights to names for terms of one to several years, and a name is only “owned” as long as it’s continually renewed.  

Expired names can be purchased through domain marketplaces or brokerages, and it’s even possible to buy a domain name directly from its owner.  

Whether a domain name is new or bought secondhand, it must be registered with a domain name registrar or through a web host in order to be active on the web. ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, oversees the domain name system and ensures its stable and secure operation. 

A domain name is a unique online address that not only captures a brand’s message and style, but also makes it accessible to searchers worldwide. Whether catchy and clever or plain and practical, domain names put a human face on the numerical locators that keep traffic flowing on the web. A domain name points to the web pages that make up a website, providing a human-readable address for accessing the site. 

After registering your web address, your contact information becomes public knowledge unless your domain registrar includes domain privacy or you choose to purchase it. The web server hosts the website’s files and delivers them to users’ browsers when they access the domain name. 

Why is choosing the right domain name important? 

A well-chosen domain name not only reflects your brand identity but also plays a significant role in attracting visitors to your website. Here’s why getting it right matters. 

It reflects your brand 

A domain name that mirrors your brand name or is closely related to it helps create a sense of cohesion and professionalism.  

For instance, apple.com is a domain name that perfectly reflects the Apple brand. This consistency makes it easier for customers to find and remember your website. Imagine if Apple’s domain name was something unrelated like “techgadgets.com” — it wouldn’t have the same impact. 

It enhances memorability 

A memorable domain name is essential for attracting return visitors and word-of-mouth referrals. A short, simple, and unique domain name like google.com is easy to remember and type correctly.  

On the other hand, a complex domain name with hyphens, numbers, or obscure characters can be a major turnoff. Consider the struggles people might face when trying to remember a domain name like “best-plumbing-services-in-london-123.com”. 

Choosing a domain name that infringes on an existing trademark or brand name can lead to costly legal battles. Before you register a domain name, it’s smart to check if there are any trademarks or copyrights that could cause problems. This helps you avoid legal disputes down the road and keeps your brand safe and compliant with the law. 

It supports effective marketing 

A well-chosen domain name can also be a valuable marketing tool. It can convey the essence of your business, product, or service, and even influence search engine rankings. 

For instance, a domain name like poetshouse.com immediately conveys that the website is related to poetry, making it more likely to attract the target audience.  

A good domain name can also improve your website’s visibility in search engine results, making it more discoverable to potential customers. 

8 essential tips for choosing the best domain name for your website 

Keep it short and simple 

Choose a domain name that’s concise and straightforward. Long or complicated names can be hard for users to remember and prone to typographical errors. By keeping your domain name short and easy to type, you make it more accessible and user-friendly. 

Avoid numbers and hyphens 

Numbers and hyphens can make your domain name confusing and hard to remember. Numbers might be misunderstood (like “5” instead of “five”), and hyphens are often forgotten when typing.  

Choose the right extension 

The domain extension you choose (like .com or .org) should match your website’s purpose. For example, .com is widely used for commercial sites, while .org is often used by non-profit organizations. Pick an extension that fits your website’s nature and appeals to your audience. 

Be future proof 

Choose a domain name that will still make sense as your business grows and changes. Avoid names that might limit your future plans or become outdated. For example, a name like “bestlaptops2023.com” could become irrelevant, whereas “techgenius.com” will stay relevant over time. 

Check availability on social media 

Before finalizing your domain name, ensure that matching usernames are available on major social media platforms. Consistent branding across these channels enhances visibility and makes it easier for customers to find and engage with your brand online. 

Use a domain name generator 

If you’re struggling to come up with a domain name, consider using a domain name generator. These tools can suggest creative variations based on your business keywords or niche. They help you explore available options and find a distinctive domain name that resonates with your brand identity and values. 

Protect your domain 

Once you choose a domain name, register it quickly to make sure no one else takes it. Consider buying similar names or common misspellings to protect your brand. For example, if your domain is “bakersdelight.com,” you might also want to register “bakerdelight.com” or “bakersdelite.com” to cover different variations and prevent confusion. 

Think about localization 

If your business operates in different countries, think about registering domain names with local extensions. For instance, if you’re expanding into Canada, registering “yourbusiness.ca” along with your main “.com” domain can help you connect better with local customers and show relevance to regional markets.

How to register a domain name 

When you’re ready to secure your domain name, follow these steps to register with Bluehost. 

  1. In the domain search bar, enter your preferred domain name. 
  1. Use the dropdown menu to select your desired domain extension, and then click Search
  1. Review the search results to see if your domain name is available. If it’s available, it will automatically be added to your cart. Bluehost may offer additional options like domain privacy protection, which hides your personal information from the public WHOIS database. Decide if you want these extras and add them to your cart if needed. 
  1. Click Proceed
  1. Select a hosting plan that meets your needs. Bluehost offers various options; choose the one that best suits your needs and click Next
     
    If you do not wish to buy a hosting plan at this time, click No thanks, continue with just my domain to proceed with domain registration only.  
  1. Review the items in your cart, including the domain name and any additional services you selected. Make sure everything is correct before proceeding. 
  1. Provide your payment information to complete the purchase. Bluehost accepts various payment methods, including credit cards and PayPal. 
  1. Review your order summary and ensure all details are correct. Click the Purchase Now to finalize the registration. 
  1. After completing the registration, you will receive a confirmation email from Bluehost with details about your new domain. You can manage your domain through the Bluehost control panel. 

Conclusion 

Securing a domain name is more than just claiming a web address—it’s about establishing your online identity and reaching your audience effectively. Whether you’re launching a new business, showcasing your portfolio, or creating a personal blog, a memorable domain name is your gateway to the online world. 

With Bluehost, buying a domain is streamlined and straightforward. By choosing Bluehost as your hosting provider, not only do you simplify the process of acquiring a domain, but you also unlock a host of features and support to build and grow your online presence.

FAQ’s about domain names

What is a domain name example? 

A domain name is the web address used to access a website. For example, in the URL https://www.example.com, “example.com” is the domain name

What are domain names mainly used for? 

Domain names are primarily used to provide memorable and easy-to-type addresses that point internet users to specific IP addresses, allowing users to access a web page without needing to remember complex numerical codes. 

Is your domain name the same as your website name? 

Often, but not always. A domain name can be the same as the website name or brand (like “google.com” for Google), but some businesses may use different names for branding and domain purposes. 

Is it good to use your name as a domain name? 

Using your name as a domain name can be beneficial for personal branding or if you are a freelancer or consultant. It makes it easier for people to find and remember your site. 

Can I permanently own my domain name? 

No, domain names cannot be owned permanently. They are registered for a specific period which can be renewed continuously. 

Can the owner of a domain be traced? 

Yes, the domain owner can usually be traced through the WHOIS database unless they use privacy services provided by domain registrars to hide their information. 

  • Tiffani Anderson

    Tiffani is a Content and SEO Manager for the Bluehost brand. With over 10 years experience across all facets of content and brand marketing, she strives to combine concepts from brand marketing with engaging content through the lens of SEO.

    Education
    University of North Texas
    Previous Experience
    Content Marketing, SEO, Social Media
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